Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Human Relations Ordinance?

Ordinance 2259 (and its amendment, Ordinance 2297, collectively referred to here as “the Ordinance”) provides protections against discrimination of various types on the basis of various factors. Read below to learn more about the protections provided by the ordinance.

What types of discrimination are prohibited by the Ordinance?

The Ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment, commercial property or housing, and public accommodation.

What is employment discrimination?

Employment discrimination happens in the job recruiting or hiring process or in the workplace. It happens when employment decisions such as hiring, layoffs, pay or other work terms or conditions are based on factors other than qualifications or job performance. [Source: PHRC website]

What is housing or commercial property discrimination?

Housing discrimination happens in the process of renting, buying, selling or getting a loan for a home.  It also includes discrimination that denies someone the use or enjoyment of their home.

Commercial property discrimination includes discrimination during the purchase, sale or lease of commercial property.  It also includes denying someone access to a commercial property on a discriminatory basis. [Source: PHRC website]

What is public accommodations discrimination?

In general, public accommodations discrimination happens when someone is denied access to the facilities or services of a business or other public place.  It may happen when services are denied outright, such as when someone is refused admission. It may also happen when they are denied the same service others receive; for example, if they are charged a different price or offered less service.

On what bases is discrimination in Carlisle prohibited?

Under the Ordinance, it is prohibited to discriminate in the areas detailed above on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religious creed, ancestry, sex, national origin, handicap or use of guide or support animals because of blindness, deafness, or physical handicap of the user or because the user is a handler or trainer of support or guide animals, sexual orientation and gender identity or gender expression.

What is the difference between the Pennsylvania state Human Relations Act and the Carlisle Human Relations Ordinance?

The main difference is that the PA state Human Relations Act does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Also, the state Act prohibits discrimination in the area of education, which is not covered by the Carlisle Ordinance.

What is the Human Relations Commission?

The Carlisle Human Relations Commission (the “Carlisle HRC”) is a four-member commission, appointed by the Borough Council. This Commission meets monthly and handles discrimination complaints pursuant to the Ordinance.

When does the Human Relations Commission meet?

The HRC meets on the 4th Thursday of each month at 7:30am in Borough Hall. These meetings are open to the public.  

What can I do if I think I have been discriminated against?

You may fill out and submit a complaint form, which can be found on the Carlisle Borough website. You will need to answer several questions about the alleged incident. Make sure to provide as much detail as possible in your complaint.

What if I’m not sure if I want to submit a complaint?

The Carlisle HRC has volunteers who can speak with you and advise you of your rights under the Ordinance. The commissioners themselves must remain neutral, and cannot give you advice about the potential merits of your complaint.

What happens after I submit a complaint?

One of the commissioners (the designated “intake commissioner”) will be in touch with you to ask you questions and gather additional information that may be needed. Then the person or organization that has been accused (the “respondent”) will be contacted and notified of the complaint. The respondent may file a response to the complaint.  After that, you and the respondent have the option to proceed to mediation, which can be handled by a mutually agreed-upon mediator or by the HRC itself.

If you and the respondent do not agree to mediation, or if mediation does not resolve the issues in the complaint, then you have the right under the Ordinance to pursue your complaint in the Court of Common Pleas.

Is harassment prohibited by the Ordinance?

No, but harassment is a crime that is prohibited by state law. If you feel that you may have been harassed, you should contact the Carlisle Borough Police Department.

How can I find out what kinds of complaints have previously been submitted?

The HRC provides a quarterly report to the Borough Council that provides general details about the number, type, and disposition of submitted complaints. Generally, the specific details of complaints, including the names of the parties, are kept private by the HRC. Discussions about submitted complaints are conducted in “executive session” by the HRC, and these discussions are not open to the public.

What do I do if I feel that I have suffered discrimination on a basis that is prohibited by both the Carlisle Ordinance and PA state law?

In this case, you are free to pursue a remedy under whatever ordinance or law you feel is best for your particular situation. Note that the requirements and procedures of the PA state HRC may be different than the ones for the Carlisle HRC.

What do I do if I have been accused of discrimination under the Ordinance?

You will be contacted by mail to notify you of the complaint that has been submitted. You will then be able to respond. You and the complainant may mutually agree to mediation, which can be conducted by a third-party mediator or by the HRC itself. If you and the complainant do not agree to mediation, or if the mediation fails to resolve the issue, then the complainant has the right to pursue the matter in the Court of Common Pleas.